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5 Red State LGBTQ+ Communities Targeted in New Pride Initiative

Rana Reeves
Rana Reeves

The "United We Stand" effort, from Unilever, Rana Reeves, and Tourmaline, will address LGBTQ+ people in cities with few to no protections.


Multinational consumer goods company Unilever has launched its third annual "United We Stand" Pride initiative, designed to empower and amplify local LGBTQ+ communities, with this year's supporting grassroots organizations in five locales in the South and Midwest.

Unilever has once again engaged creative agency RanaVerse, which led the development of the initiative, and tapped acclaimed filmmaker Tourmaline to bring the stories of these communities to life.

"Our actions for systemic change will push for a fairer, more socially inclusive society by engaging community leaders, building local support services, and utilizing our communication platforms to create real change to the current anti-LGBTQ+ laws that exist in these cities," Fabian Garcia, president of Unilever North America, said in a press release. "Unilever is a champion in corporate diversity, equity and inclusion practices, and remains committed to encouraging each entity, public or private, to align with these goals in support of LGBTQ+ people."

"We're thrilled to work with Unilever again on the 'United We Stand' campaign, and bring support and attention to these communities," said Rana Reeves, founder and CEO of RanaVerse, who has partnered with Unilever every year on the initiative. "Through careful assessment, we targeted five communities with little to no LGBTQ+ discrimination protections and diverse needs, and used those insights to shape the campaign. This is an initiative that is for the queer community and by the queer community, and it's providing a space for so many untold stories. For me, the opportunity to work with Unilever on an effort so deeply focused on actionable purpose and systemic change has been a game-changer." Reeves is a British-Indian gay immigrant whose agency, with offices in New York and London, helps brands ensure that their campaign work is made both for and by the community, with queer talent in front of and behind the scenes.

Unilever and RanaVerse worked with LGBTQ+ community strategist Sean Coleman to select locales that scored a zero on the Human Rights Campaign's Municipal Equality Index: Monroe, La.; Moore, Okla.; Clemson, S.C.; Florence, Ala.; and towns and cities in need of support in southwest Missouri. Within each of those areas, they partnered with a local LGBTQ+ organization: Forum for Equality, Freedom Oklahoma, South Carolina Black Pride, the Knights and Orchids Society, and PFLAG Springfield, respectively.

Tourmaline, a prominent filmmaker and artist who has also worked with "United We Stand" every year, will profile five diverse LGBTQ+ narratives from each of these communities for films that will make up the 2021 "United We Stand" campaign and will be released this month for Pride. They will be available beginning next Monday on YouTube and other platforms.

While each region has its own set of challenges, there is one overarching similarity -- the lack of support for those who are the most vulnerable. "Those that are in rural areas, are differently abled, and people of color have the least access to life-affirming services," Coleman said. "'United We Stand' is different in its approach as we looked at the unique intersections that present within these communities and will work to bridge the gap, providing a blueprint that other regions can adopt."

The change-makers within these narratives represent multiple intersectional LGBTQ+ experiences including Indigenous, Black, Latinx, and transgender/nonconforming people. With a focus on "the language of the heart," as Tourmaline describes it, the films will centralize these subjects' unique voices to share their stories and reflect their identities. Together, Tourmaline and her subjects are emblematic of Unilever and RanaVerse's commitment to increasing diversity both on-screen and behind the camera.

"Unilever's 'United We Stand' campaign purposefully centers the voices of those organizing against harmful conditions and creating beautiful and powerful solutions in the wake," Tourmaline said. "Queer people have a historic talent for lifting each other up, for banding together as one to fight for the collective good. During a time like Pride, rather than focusing on the pain and anguish of the LGBTQ+ experience, we will celebrate the thriving, abundance, and joy of the community."

The films will kick off a month of spreading awareness and information across Unilever's channels and partners, and it will include a continuation of the Unilever queer leader network, which brings together a mass assortment of LGBTQ+ celebrities, influencers, community leaders, and entertainers to help spread the campaign's message. The 2021 participants include Adore Delano, Detox, Jackie Cox, Jan Sport, Lady Shug, Nicky Doll, Latrice Royale, the Vixen, Aquaria, Heidi N Closet, Willam, Bob the Drag Queen, La'Darius Marshall, and more. Unilever promises that its commitment to systemic change will continue throughout the year.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring, The Advocate's copy chief, has spent much of her journalistic career covering the LGBT movement. When she's not fielding questions about grammar, spelling, and LGBT history, she's sharing movie trivia or classic rock lyrics.
Trudy Ring, The Advocate's copy chief, has spent much of her journalistic career covering the LGBT movement. When she's not fielding questions about grammar, spelling, and LGBT history, she's sharing movie trivia or classic rock lyrics.